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Food For Thought: Solitude, Alone and Lonely

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Appreciating solitude, being alone and feeling lonely are all related experiences that individuals who are grieving are familiar with. They are, figuratively speaking, places that you might visit frequently — or run away from because they’re so uncomfortable. “I’ll just stay busy. That way, I won’t have to feel alone or be lonely.” Unfortunately, that strategy just doesn’t work. Grief and the loneliness of grief wait for you. Does it get better? Can you enjoy solitude without loneliness?

Grief and loneliness

The following are thoughts shared by a male group member on the difference between Solitude, Alone and Lonely.


  • When I think of solitude the first picture I think of is a mountain lake — quiet and serene
  • For me solitude implies a peaceful oneness with your surroundings and environment
  • It is a positive experience and feeling as in finding solitude in the ripples on a lake


  • A state not inherently negative or positive can at times be both
  • Being alone can be accompanied by loneliness, but not necessarily so
  • I certainly have felt alone in a large group — leading me to feel like I’m on my own
  • At other times I cherish being alone, with the privacy of my own thoughts and emotions


  • Always a negative feeling for me
  • Missing the company and interaction of others
  • A longing feeling to be with and interact with others
  • Painful aching of wanting to be with others
  • I think I’ve certainly felt my loneliest in a large crowd
  • Always emotionally painful

Loneliness and solitude are very different things. When we’re lonely, we feel sad about being alone. But when we’re in solitude, we have ourselves and can be at peace. It just takes time and patience to surrender and accept it.

“Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude.” — Sir Thomas Browne

Many of us have had such painful relationships with ourselves and others that we often feel lonely. Or we may have been so frightened of being alone that now we avoid it like the plague. All of us have known the pain of loneliness, even while we were surrounded by people.

Through solitude we can become more fully acquainted with ourselves and deepen our sense of spirituality. Being mindful, spending quiet time in Nature, meditation, prayer are all ways in which we can make conscious contact with something higher than ourselves. Even in our solitude, we can find that we are really not alone.

My Eyes So Soft



Your loneliness so quickly.

Let it cut more


Let it ferment and season you

As few human

Or even divine ingredients can.

Something missing in my heart tonight

Has made my eyes so soft,

My voice so


My need of God



— Hafiz, 14th Century Sufi Mystic

By Jo Christner, Psy.D.